Many journalists are comparing Obama's speech to the likes of Martin Luther King's I have a Dream or Letter from the Birmingham Jail, or J.F. Kennedy's Houston Ministerial Address, asking whether it will stand alongside some of the memorable speeches on race. Maybe. I didn't get to hear or see the speech since we choose not to have television, though I did read the transcript. I thought it was a wonderfully open discourse on some of the racial problems plaguing our country. He did a fabulous job slipping out of the sticky Rev. Wright alliance question. Anyway.
What I do want to know . . .
Is whether he or a speech writer opened up the Bartlett's Familiar Quotations or The Oxford Dictionary of Quotations to pluck Faulkner's "The past is never dead. It's not even past." from the vast number of entries on the past, or whether he read Requiem for a Nun and remembered the line? Did he intend to evoke Faulkner's old south characters, miscegenation themes, and racial inequities to further his point? Did he know that "The past is never dead. It's not even past." used as it is in Requiem could also mean that Rev. Wright's words live on in him?
Does he really need the Sutpens, Bons, Coldfields, McCaslins, and Snopes hopping around behind his words? Do they change the spoken words?
Though I question, I do admire Barack Obama's well honed speech and . . .
his use of Faulkner. If he wanted to use Faulkner could a better Faulkner line be:
I believe man will not merely endure, he will prevail. He is immortal, not because he, alone among creatures, has an inexhaustible voice but because he has a soul, a spirit capable of compassion and sacrifice and endurance.
The context of this statement is fear during and after World War II, but still what a lovely sentiment.